Simpson caboose returns home
April 20, 2023
Train cabooses and lighthouses, a saying goes, are two things everyone likes.
So it seems extra special when a caboose, even in a battered and weathered state, returns after four decades away to the site where it was instrumental in moving the area's greatest economical resource, trees.
That was the case Thursday when two trucks delivered Caboose 1201 to its former home at the Simpson Lumber Co. former sorting yard in Dayton, 10 miles west of downtown Shelton. The nonprofit Peninsular Railway & Lumbermen's Museum/Simpson Railroad bought the caboose for $1,500, courtesy of a Mason County Heritage Grant, and plans to restore it and put it back on the rails. Donations to help restore the caboose can be made at http://www.simpsonrailroad.org.
Simpson bought the frame of a Great Northern caboose and rebuilt it in 1964 at its shop in downtown Shelton, said Dale Campbell, a member of the group. The caboose trailed loads of logs until 1986 or 1987, when Simpson shut down operations at Camp Grisdale, he said.
"This is home," Campbell said as he watched the caboose being removed from the trucks. "This is where it worked all its life."
Josh Kaivo, the group's president, called Thursday's arrival a "historic homecoming."
"This particular piece has been on our radar for quite some time," he wrote in an email to the Journal.
One of the group's directors, Pete Replinger, owned the caboose before selling it to a friend. In 2003, the friend moved it to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad near Battle Ground. Group members visited it several times before purchasing it.
"Caboose 1201 represents the first major piece to return to the Simpson Railroad," Kaivo wrote. "By nature, it is a fantastic example of adoptive reuse, as Simpson originally repurposed much of a Great Northern caboose for its construction. Likewise, we intend to breathe new life into the caboose so our visitors will be able to imagine what it might have been like to ride a log train over Vance Creek. This is one of the last pieces to cross Vance Creek. Vance Creek to us is a symbol of long-term investment in the community, not just within, but surrounding the railroad and the timber industry."
The caboose is in "fair condition," and needs some new siding and replacing the wood on the porch, Campbell said.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to give rides this summer," he said.